They are by no means the only well-known robots in science fiction, but the success of the Star Wars franchise may lead many sales reps to associate working alongside artificial intelligence tools with images of R2D2 and C-3PO. 

Neither of these robots — which Star Wars purists would probably prefer to call “droids” — come across as ideal coworkers. Imagine a robot like C-3PO hovering around nervously as a sales rep makes cold calls to prospects, or who practically bites his metallic fingers in worry as a customers decide whether to make a purchase or not?

R2D2, meanwhile, is typically funnier on film than his counterpart but can only communicate through a series of beeping noises. Sales teams would probably argue they need a robot with whom there’s no technological language barrier. 

Fortunately, both of these robots are far removed from the reality of the AI capabilities that are now being added to their CRM. Take a look at Sales Cloud and Einstein, for instance, and you'll have a better sense of what the combination of these technologies really looks like. 

It’s better to think about AI as a robot assistant that brings forward ideas and recommendations. It’s there to help reps get more out of their CRM, and thereby help the entire team meet a company’s revenue or other growth targets. 

Another way to think about AI in CRM is as a robot that can take on much of the time-consuming tasks that prevent you from doing the other things that lead to deeper customer relationships. This not only includes following up on specific requests but proactively suggesting new products and services, business opportunities and more. AI is having an impact in other areas of the business as well, including customer service.

Here’s a quick overview of what the technology does and how it will allow you to crush your quota like never before: 
 

Lead scoring
 

Quick: Which of your current leads have the most in common with your prior converted leads? 

If you don’t know the answer immediately, that’s okay. Providing a good answer would take time and involve doing some homework. Think of AI as the robot that will not only do that homework on your behalf, but probably a lot faster than you could. 

AI can not only perform lead scoring at a particular point in a rep’s selling cycle, but on a continuous basis. That means you’ll be able to have a better sense of where to prioritize your efforts no matter what’s coming in through your marketing team, which is probably also making use of AI
 

Opportunity scoring
 

It’s great to see a wealth of opportunities in front of you when you log into your CRM, but which of those are most likely to be won? That’s a good task for AI to help with, because the technology can apply machine learning to see what the past can tell us about the future. 

By looking at account histories, for instance, AI might be able to score an opportunity based on the expected length of a sales cycle. Think of a small business customer or a consumer. Selling to them might be as simple as a meeting, phone call or website visit. A large enterprise customer, on the other hand, may involve a series of approvals and even legal review. 

It can be hard to keep all these factors in place when you have a lot of different customer activities at once, which is why AI becomes key to streamlining the entire process. 
 

Predictive forecasting
 

When a company nears the end of a particular quarter there can be a series of nervous enquiries from senior leaders, including the CEO, on how many deals might make it in before the books have to be closed. 

Depending on how sales reps or managers answer, companies may have to consider everything from employee headcount to how much they should invest in their next marketing campaign. Forecasting that seems like guesswork certainly doesn’t help in making these decisions, and can hurt the sales team’s credibility. 

AI takes that pain away by looking at historical win rates and the various factors that contribute positively or negatively to a company having a great quarter. Sales teams can still be very influential by helping advise on the criteria used in the analysis, and of course the level of detail they put into the CRM on a day-to-day basis. 
 

Insight-based selling
 

When reps aren’t using their CRM, they are most likely on email, where all kinds of information gets passed around about key accounts and the various opportunities and challenges they’re presenting to the firm. AI can connect to email as well as the CRM to provide a deeper, holistic look. You can see which accounts might be primed for up-selling or cross-selling, or if there's something you should be doing to reduce potential churn. 

None of this analysis requires someone to lock themselves in a room to pore over records and come back with an ‘A-ha’ moment. AI can pull out highly actionable insights in as little as a day, and as sales teams get more used to it, the level of detail in those insights only becomes more powerful. Those “robots” in your CRM when used correctly lead to a happier group of humans charged with achieving the most challenging sales targets.